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Brianne Schoolcraft '15

Brianne Schoolcraft '15

The Role of Action Research in Reclaiming Teachers’ Professional Lives in an Era of International Accountability

Major/minor: Studio Art/ English
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Project mentor: Dr. Joseph Shosh

Project Details:

  1. Briefly describe your SOAR project.
    Our SOAR project in a nutshell was to study various views on professionalism and how teachers either did or did not fit into those different definitions of what it means to be a professional. The second part of our project was to see how Teacher Action Research – a method of practitioner inquiry that involves a cycle of continuous collaboration, studying a subject, building a research project, putting a plan into action, observing and recording the results of that action, reflecting upon those results, sharing the outcome of the project, and revising the initial project plan – fit into those definitions of professionalism in order to determine whether Action Research could play a role in increasing teacher professionalism. An additional part of our project stemmed from last summer’s project. It involved coding the thesis documents of M.Ed. alumni in order to find their teaching philosophies; collecting survey results from these same alumni on the effectiveness of Action Research and the M.Ed. program, whether their teaching philosophy had changed, their opinion on the No Child Left Behind legislation, and their current use or lack of use of Action Research; as well as conducting interviews with these alumni on some of the previously mentioned topics.
  2. What motivated you to participate in SOAR? 
    My motivation for participating in SOAR this year was my past success with the program. This is my third year being part of SOAR, and my previous two years as a participant were so rewarding in both knowledge and experiences that I could not resist the opportunity to return. I must also add that, as always, Dr. Shosh was a big reason for my willingness to return to SOAR. His passion for education is truly an inspiration, and without his enthusiasm SOAR would not have been quite the same for me. As an advisor he pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and to do my very best. He made sure we were thinking critically every step of the way and never stopped questioning ourselves and even the things we take for granted. With kindness and understanding he fostered our unique talents and encouraged us to grow intellectually and in our awareness of both ourselves and the world. I truly cannot speak anything but praise for him. Thanks to the opportunity SOAR provided and Dr. Shosh’s expertise and willingness to go above and beyond as a mentor, I grew far more intellectually and as a person than I ever expected I could over these past few years.
  3. What are the results of your work on this project? 
    This summer we finished our collection of survey results. These results were organized into a spreadsheet for future reference, and numerical data was collected in a series of charts that will be used in future presentations to express the impact of the No Child Left Behind legislation and the effectiveness of Action Research. We also created several charts and outlines that visually summarize a portion of the information we have collected through our reading on topics such as professionalism, Action Research, and education. Additionally, we compiled a list of codes that sum up the teaching stances of M.Ed. alumni as expressed in their thesis documents. We also have audio and video recordings of M.Ed. alumni discussing their practice, which may be of future use of the education department or in the continuation of the study of the importance of Action Research. All of these results will also be of great use to us as we embark on the quest to share this information with a larger audience in order to raise awareness of the current situation educators face as well as how educators might improve their practice, which will be discussed in more detail below. 
  4. What are your personal takeaways from the project? And do you plan to continue work on this project after SOAR? 
    From this final project I believe I have fine-tuned both my research abilities, such as information analysis and the summary of this information, as well as my understanding and awareness of the topics studied. My confidence, particularly as a speaker, I feel has increased dramatically, in part because of last year’s project, but also due to this year’s presentations. I felt as though it was in my final year as a SOAR participant that everything really came together for me. I reached an even deeper understanding of Action Research as well as a greater awareness of the current situation of education in America. Now, more than ever, I realize not only the necessity for change but also what I might be able to do in the future to implement this change. Our current plans are to write, and hopefully have published, an article on our project and the SOAR program in an academic journal such as CUR in order to raise awareness of the importance of both undergraduate research and Action Research. We also intend to share the findings of our project at the Action Research Network of America (ARNA) conference in Toronto Canada next summer. As a result of our project we have also been inspired to create a working group within ARNA to begin to educate undergraduate educators on Action Research. We believe this may be a great first step in making a change in education because the more people who are made aware of Action Research, and the sooner it reaches these people, the greater chance it has of impacting their future practice as educators for the better.

Biographical Information:

  1. What clubs/sports/activities/community service are you involved in? 
    I participate in the art club here at Moravian whenever my schedule allows. I am also a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.
  2. Have you received any awards/recognitions here? 
    I have been a member of the Dean’s List all six of my semesters at Moravian.
  3. Briefly, what are your future plans and career goals? 
    I am considering attending graduate school in the near future. I also intend to pursue a career which combines my passion for both art and writing.